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The Communicators

News/Business. People who shape the digital future.

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00:30:00

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TOPIC FREQUENCY

Us 7, Fcc 5, Robert Mcdowell 3, Washington 3, Amy Schatz 3, Mcdowell 2, Eric Cantor 1, Hutchison 1, Joe Biden 1, Baker 1, Genachowski 1, Landline 1, Jay Rockefeller 1, Peter King 1, Copps 1, Omb 1, Downtown Manhattan 1, D.c. 1, Manhattan 1, New York 1,
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  CSPAN    The Communicators    News/Business. People who  
   shape the digital future.  

    July 18, 2011
    8:00 - 8:30am EDT  

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[applause] >> this event was part of the 2,011 los angeles times festival of books. to find out more visit events.l atimes.com/festivalofbooks. you have been watching booktv. 48 hours of book programming beginning saturday morning at 8:00 eastern through monday morning at 8:00 eastern. nonfiction books all weekend every weekend right here on c-span2. ..
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>> the house returns today at noon eastern for legislative business.
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>> this week on "the communicators" federal communications commission robert mcdowell on cell phone security issues, service charges on consumers phone bills and issues before the fcc. >> host: we welcome back to "the communicators" robert mcdowell, the lone republican commission on the federal communications commission at this point. also joining us for this half-hour discussion is amy schatz who covers telecommunications issues for "the wall street journal." commissioner, let's start there, what's it like to be the lone republican on the fcc? >> guest: over 90% of what the fcc does is not only bipartisan but unanimous. so it's probably one of the least partisan pieces of washington, d.c., you can find. so the party label doesn't always mean a whole lot. i've been there i guess the
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second longest with commissioner copps having been almost 10 years. i've been there over five years. that you choose some institutional memory to work with, but i think commissioner baker left, i don't member when. >> host: is their movement for another republican commissioner? >> guest: i don't know. all i know is what i read in the newspapers. as well on the democrat side. those would be paired up so that it's easy for them to travel through the confirmation process. but i don't have any firsthand knowledge but one would hope that's going to happen and it would happen sometime in the fall. >> host: let's talk about some of the issues at the fcc and congress and the country is looking at right now. begin with security of cell phones, and given what's happening in the u.k. right now, both the chairman of the
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homeland security committee here in the states, peter king, and jay rockefeller, have called for an investigation on the phone hacking. if this comes over to the states, will the fcc have a role in looking at the security of cell phones? >> guest: if there is wiretapping going on anywhere for any reason by anybody, that's illegal. it's a criminal matter. law enforcement agencies would be the best to be cast to looking into it. certainly congress can do its own investigation as well. if there's a violation of an fcc rule, then we should look at it. right now we don't and evidence of any wrongdoing by anybody regarding recent headlines that i know of. but should evidence be presented and it's within our jurisdiction certainly we should. >> host: do you agree with congress there should be an investigation? >> guest: i don't tell can't is what to do. if there are members of congress to launch an investigation, they
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are free to conduct their own and the commission should abide by its own processes. and if there's evidence of wrongdoing by anybody, any company for anything, then we should look at it in due course. >> host: amy schatz? another issue we tackled this week was cramming, which is when some kind of item shows up on your phone bill is unauthorized and you didn't ask for it. i had a question about this because cramming has been illegal for a very long time. the senate came out, so investors suggest this is a widespread practice, something affecting consumers a lot. why do you think this is to going on when the fcc already has a rule about this and what does the fcc need to do? >> guest: enforce existing rules which you pointed out we already have on the books and have it since the 1990s. we did just launch a notice of proposed rulemaking earlier this week and for my father-in-law, what that means is we put up a comment some ideas what if
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anything more we need to do. so this will open up a record with consumer advocacy groups and consumers in sales and industry at all, anybody who wants to comment can comment on whether not the fcc needs to do more. and give us facts. so i would like to see facts, what is the current state of the market, what exactly is going on. the fcc gets about 2000-3000 cramming complaints a year, and that is as you said unauthorized charges appearing on your phone bill given by third parties or by phone companies. it is a growing matter. we're hearing a growing chorus in congress for us to look into it or for congress to pass new legislation. let's take a look. let's see how bad this is and see if we need to enforce our own rule. >> guest: one of the things no one fcc took took action this week, a notice on this thing, he basically we're looking at transparency issues but one of the major issues years about
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whether to expand these rules, not just a mayor landline phones but to wireless phones and internet phone. where do you stand on that? >> guest: let's see what the facts tell us. if there's something we need to do then we'll look at our jurisdiction as written by congress to see what authority we have, to do something in that regard. and go from there. >> host: commissioner mcdowell, the fcc this week forward rules to the omb toward net neutrality to codify net neutrality. where do you stand? >> guest: omb, part of white house operations, and there's a whole convoluted review here in washington, paperwork reduction act, tra, not to be confused with the professional rodeo association. anyway, they review what the affect of our rules might be on businesses of all kind. by the fcc's own estimate, the net neutrality rules, again
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which i descended last december 21, rules generate three times more paperwork than the fcc estimates, and that number seems to be going up. this is just tier one i think of the unintended consequences of what i thought was a very ill-advised rule-making order that we came out with last december. so what's been happening in the past seven months is this review by the office of management and budget, and that requires more notice and public input, and so the last round of that, latest round of that is commencing now. so it could be those rules, net neutrality rules that become effective, maybe until mid to late october. and then they could be appealed. they can't be appealed by the court or overturned by the senate under statute until they become -- >> host: do you foresee them being appealed?
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>> guest: some parties have tried to appeal before they became affected and were told by the court to wait until they are effective. and i think there's a better than average chance these will be stayed or frozen in court, because i think they could cause harm. i say better of average, the average chance for stay, so better than average isn't much better by to think it's better than average. >> all these rules have to go before the paper reduction act but they really take six months. this seems to be abnormally delayed. do you know what the heck happened there? >> guest: i'm not quite sure. there was some sort of artful language that was not included in the order. and again i dissented so i didn't try to approve the order. we saw that coming. so that's part of the issue is how the actual order was written, and prevent the fcc from publishing that order,
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those rules, sort of right away. and that's allowed for this for the review. so it is odd, and it's created i think a lot of uncertainty. and as i've called for before under the president's executive order for agencies to reduce the amount of unused regulation i think they should be first on the list. >> i can't leave am going to say these words, but let's talk about universal service reform. what's the status of this? because this is something the commission has been working on, and there was some speculation by the chairman's office, the leaves change or something like that in earlier this week they said that's not going to happen and in the final stretch, so what's going on and where you stand on this? >> guest: universal service, for the viewers, 8 billion plus dollar per year subsidy program, subsidizes phone service in rural areas and other high-cost
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areas to low income, schools and libraries, this big umbrella. and i've been pushing for reform for many years now. i've been on the commission for over five years. came very close to resolving many thorny issues on universal service and related areas called intercarrier compensation which is phone companies changing money, exchanging money for determining traffic to a network. became very close with republicans and democrats on board for many reforms. including myself and the commissioner. so i think there's a lot of room for bipartisan agreement. i get concerned when i see dates continue to slip away. i saw it in '08 for instance, and my concern is that we might get two new commissioners on the commission this fall, republican and a democratic i'd like to see it get in order done before that happens, because that could be used as an excuse for further
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delay, going into an election year, more pressure from congress, we are an independent agency so we are chartered by congress. to get this done. it's been what, 14 years or so since the commission has really put out a comprehensive order. so what we're looking at is the distribution side of universal service. i want to make sure that we don't see an increase in size of the fund. technology has made telecommunications much more efficient and has deflation in the telecommunications context. so we probably should see a reduction in the amount of the overall size of the fund. another concern is we're not doing contributions which is the taxing side of this animal, and were only focusing on the distribution side, spending side. i think they should have been done together so i would like to see as quickly as possible notice of proposed rule making.
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>> you think you get the distribution side than before members are now made? >> guest: i'm optimistic. i think chairman genachowski, i don't speak for him, but i think he shares this sense of urgency. pretty much any idea that has been thought of regarding universal service has already been fully -- over the past 14 years. the staff has already thought of and written i'm sure many drafts of order. it's probably a matter of cutting and pasting some more doctors together which can probably get done by -- if we put our minds to. i understand that there are some new ideas industry wants to float, we want to get those out for public comment as quickly as possible but i'd like to see it done no later than our october meeting. if we do end up with new commissioners by then, i hope that's not used as an excuse. >> host: why no action on the
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funding site? >> guest: i don't know. i think should have been done comprehensively. the reason i have been given is there isn't personnel within the fcc to get it done. that was not the case in 2008. it's all related. and there are issues that touch one another. that announced has been used many times now. like fixing a watch. you can tinker with one component of the innards of the watch without affecting all the other moving parts. that's why you have to do it all at the same time. >> host: communications day which is came out thursday, how is to be considering using it to close union? the universal service fund they'll pay down the deficit, congressional doctrine show hill and industry officials told communications daily majority leader eric cantor circulated a slide presentation to his colleagues tuesday that contain cuts and savings proposed in
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talks with vice president joe biden including between 20,000,000,025,000,000,000 quote, spectrum savings, all but a billion of that would come from spectrum auctions. >> guest: right. there's a lot of concepts there. i haven't been briefed by congress. congress tells us what to do, not the other way around the a lot of other issues, perhaps several hundred million dollars in direct payments over the years as well as 800, $900 million, call it a surplus. some accounts in this area don't like to call it a surplus, unused money. i don't know what leader candor is thinking in terms of which portion of the fund might be used for the. and, obviously, we have statutory commission to carry out our mission to help subsidize rural areas. >> so if your document using u.s. effort deficit reduction, is that just decreased amount of
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fun stuff able to companies who currently get this or does that mean you might see a rise in the contribution so folks are paying this every month in the phone bill might have to start paying more for this? >> guest: i haven't seen any of document circulating on capital regarding this so i don't want to speak for them but one of the i read said they do not want an increase of the contribution factor basically. so i don't know what they're thinking. those questions are probably better addressed to leader cantor. >> host: two bills have come before the house now, i'm so, before the congress. senator rockefeller and senator hutchison's bill which is now been introduced on the house side by couple house democrats. and now the republicans have put out broad outline of their spectrum auction bill. do you lean towards one or the other, one philosophical approach or the other? >> guest: again, congress tells me what to do.
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i don't tell them what to do. what i said on this topic is should they be instant auctions, some sort of provision to give broadcasters an incentive to relinquish their perspective it should be voluntary. broadcaster should be compensated for the cost of buying new transmitters, new powers, et cetera. is going to be like the tv transition with her two years ago, all over can? and dolby broadcasters who won't participate in the auction but who will occur policy. we want to make sure unless congress is changing its priority, which i don't think is the case, they continue to believe, don't have to take all this into account. so having said that, there is a need for more spectrum. we need to get more to the marketplace. so beyond that i will that congress. >> host: and the house
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democrats plan. but they also dedicate d block to emergency communications. are you supportive of dedicating d block emergency communication? >> guest: so, the d block was about 10 megahertz slice of prime real estate in the spectrum world that congress has been looking to some a use for public safety. with the dtv act of 2005, we have an obligation as the law currently stands to auction off d block. i voted in '07 for the idea of a public-private partnership with a 10 megahertz, called the law, would be right next to the 20 for maker to block that congress set aside for public safety back in 1997. well before 9/11. my concern is, first of all 24 megahertz in that space is like several blocks of downtown manhattan in real estate terms. it's very desirable spectrum. the signals their go along this
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is. that's a tremendous amount. a decade or so ago, many public safety institutes decided to use 10 megahertz, almost half of that for narrowband voice and have been sort of locked into that technology. that's like building a one story gas station in manhattan. so it's not the highest best use of that lame. gas stations are important but instead of rebuilding the gas station to public ice -- skyscraper, they want the next adjacent piece of lint. public safety has about 97 megahertz worth of spectrum. not all frequencies are created equally. that's a lot nationwide. so when you start to drill down, i can say this, i'm a non-elected official, i don't have to worry about the political aspects of this. when you drill down, public safety i think is looking for more money. they need money to have a
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nationwide public safety network. and i think that's the direction we got to go pick in the meantime the fcc is granted about 20 waivers nationwide to jurisdiction both large and small, new york, washington, a lot of smaller towns, where they can build out their own regional communications networks. in the absence of any other government action to help them. it's complicated. i think more spectrum is not necessary the answer. i think a new technology and all-ip world, and internet protocol world, using that 24 megahertz block to the highest and best use would be the best for public safety and for the american people. >> host: this is c-span "the communicators" program. our guest robert mcdowell, and amy schatz of "the wall street journal" is our guest reporter. >> commissioner mcdowell, part of the republican spectrum bill also gives with the white magic is in the bill they suggest all
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of the unlicensed spectrum in the tv stand should be auctioned off. which seems to stress may be the white spaces issue that's been taken on the fcc for the last few years might be sort of day. where do you stand on this issue? do you think there should continue to use white spaces lacks. >> guest: i've been a longtime strong proponent of unlicensed use of du white spaces anti-white spaces of course other unused tv channels in a particular area. and again it's the same kind of spectrum we talk about public safety. so it's very powerful. called wi-fi on steroids for instance. the possible benefits are fantastic, and so, like wi-fi you a remember before its sf on friday nobody heard of wi-fi but by monday everyone had it. and the same is true of our unlicensed here. the point is when it's unlicensed, that really stimulates a quick build out and a lot of small businesses,
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entrepreneurs can get involved very, very quickly. yeah, i do have a concern. i think it's a pragmatic concern that i think is very difficult to license white spaces especially in some problem areas. just because of the contours of what the unlicensed space is. it makes it difficult. maybe in rural areas there are more white spaces, more unused channels. but again, congress tells me what to do. i don't tell congress what to do. >> that's if they ask you and they said there's a draft and they're hoping for feedback from all sides on this comp would you suggest to them perhaps they should do some sort of carve out for a little bit of white spaces? >> guest: i think that's exactly what i would advise. i think it has a positive and constructive chaos to the marketplace. i think it is an escape valve for those who are concerned about alleged concentration in
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the wireless marketplace, for instance, or those who are proponents of net neutrality rules of having regulation that has this chaotic part of the marketplace. it can be an escape valve for consumers and a workaround if there isn't any anticompetitive conduct. and yet it's wonderful unlicensed segment of the economy. we can't even imagine what kind of innovation is at the horizon. that's a very exciting thing. >> host: the wireless competition reports 15th annual recently came out from the fcc, and in their you quoted, you were quoted as saying competition is robust. i've misquoted you. go ahead and tell me that. but i would you say the same thing even with the het, t-mobile merger bringing down one of the major carriers? >> guest: i don't want to comment specifically on the substance of that merger. that's certainly something that the government needs to look at very carefully.
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the department of justice does a antitrust review. my hope is that the recent departure of the assistant attorney general does not delay review. i think we need to give it a full, thorough and expeditious review. and the departure of one member of the team should not slow us down. these are all legitimate questions to ask and we'll go from the. >> host: can you give us a status? is that it is under review. this summer was a key time for the building up of a record, especially department of justice, and i think if we start to see late summer, round and department of justice hasn't said it would file, to block it for instance, i think that might mean we're talking what kind of conditions to be place on the merger. the department of justice would be the one to require. >> host: do you see it all that glad issue, gay lesbian
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alliance resides a lot of their leaders resign because of the atm key, to endorse the merger because they got money from a tnt, do you see that mucking it up at all? >> guest: it certainly welcome to hear from third parties as to whether not they support or oppose particular merger. our job is to look at the faqs and how-to the facts pertaining to to the existing law. so one interest group being happy or unhappy with it doesn't really affect my analysis of the. what does the marketplace look like as a result of the merger. >> you think there's anyway to merger can can get done this year? >> guest: it is my hope it can be done before you're in. the fcc of those who has a 180 day shot clock. so we should be able to get it done in that time frame to this is large and complicated, but i see no reason why the fcc can't get this done by the end of the year. >> so a separate issue involving wireless competition, this
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company called squared. they got an approval from the fcc earlier this year to use some satellite and airways that they purchased to use to build a ground-based network. and that's had a lot of concern that is, in the industry because airways are really, really close by. they're suggesting this will cause a lot of interference and because of the fcc, gps devices across the country of going to get knocked out. do you think this is something the full fcc should take a look at? >> guest: i want to make scientists and engineers look at it. i want to make sure it's not a political decision. let's have the engineers look at it and gives the most dispassionate objective reports that they can as to what is going to happen as a result of this. as you point out it is not risen to the level of the commissioners. out of the forest of us. and i think it's right where it should be. it's good to have career public
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servants examine this in public servants, engineering attached to the name, to look at it. i think they have started working on plan b which is to use frequencies that are lower down or further away from the gps frequencies. had a lot of government agencies get involved, defense-related comp homeland security related that are concerned about potential harmful interferes to the gps. we certainly don't want that to even be a remote possibility. so hopefully there's a win-win situation here, and we should take our time, not feel rushed, and look for the best possible solution. >> host: we have three minutes left. if there are other topics you want to discuss. >> let's talk about osha because recently the third circuit setback to the agency you are rules on cross ownership of these papers and tv stations based on some administrative concerns that the fcc hadn't given public enough time to comment. do you think the fcc stumbled of
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the ball on this? >> guest: according to the third circuit yes, we did. the concern was by the appellate court by publishing the outline of proposals in "the new york times" three weeks before a vote speed as you should have published them in "the wall street journal." >> guest: i don't think you would've gotten any revenue. by the way, so, that was not adequate public notice, for notice and comment purposes here that's probably the right decision. i did think the record contains substantial information that allowed us to go forward with a bow, which is one reason i voted for what i think is a very unique, mild, almost pathetic relaxation of the newspaper broadcast ownership and. the third circuit itself and another decision pretty much gave the fcc the green light to go forward with an elimination of that ban.
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i think it's archaic. we don't our papers or mapping websites or read stations from having websites or other platforms. i think the ban has caused a reduction in voices in traditional media and not encouraged diversity as it was intended. >> do you think any their democratic colleagues agree with you? or that this once again is dead? >> guest: i don't know. i do want to speak for them but i know they don't want me to speak for them. i would hope that they would look at the reality of the marketplace and the media market place is incredibly dynamic. >> finally, the supreme court is going to be taking of the fcc's decency regulations, and worthy of control over that. do you have any sort of predictions on how this will go. >> guest: i don't have a prediction but hopefull